Thursday, February 26, 2009

Peach Applesauce

I'm still not sure such a thing is really possible, but I think I might have frozen a few too many peaches. Or maybe I just haven't been baking enough! Anyway, here's something I've been doing with a few of them, to mix things up a bit for my toddler from just plain applesauce.

I posted directions for making regular applesauce a while back. To make peach applesauce, take a bag of peaches out of the freezer and let it thaw, then drain (drink the juice if you like!). Add the peaches along with the apples to cook, then proceed as you would for standard applesauce. Since I froze my peaches with the peel on, I have been using an immersion blender on the cooked applesauce to break up the peels, since Nate has a hard time with them.

Freezing Apple Cider

I got this tip from Ben Clark at Clarkdale Fruit Farms, and it solved a problem too frequently occurring in our house--we would buy a gallon of apple cider but drink it too slowly, only to open the fridge one day and discover that the jug looked ready to explode. But it turns out cider freezes beautifully and easily, so you can pour out part of the gallon into another container for the fridge and freeze the rest of it. Be sure to leave generous head space in whatever container you freeze it in, as cider will expand when frozen just like water.  At this time of year, you can even save a little energy by freezing it outdoors, then putting it in the freezer. Let it thaw in the fridge, and be sure to let it thaw completely, then shake or stir, before drinking.

Why bring this up now? Well, Clarkdale is closing for the season this weekend, so if you love their cider like we do, now would be a good time to buy a couple gallons to freeze and drink for the rest of the winter. Enjoy!

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Growing Sprouts

Looking for an easy way to get a little more in the way of local greens into your diet? Try growing sprouts on your kitchen counter. All you need is a mason jar and a perforated lid. You can buy seeds for sprouts, of several varieties, at Green Fields Market or through any number of seed catalogs. You don't need (or want) direct sunlight, so they're great for winter. And you don't need dirt, so they're great for indoors. Even better, they don't have to grow very much, so you can go from seed to plate in just a few days.

Seeds, Seeds, Seeds

We finally got our seed orders in this weekend, after ogling several catalogs for weeks. Each year, our garden ambitions grow larger, though we are constrained by the confines of our yard and the available sunlight. We live in town, on less than two tenths of an acre. While we have a great Southern exposure, there are some tall trees, and neighboring houses, that limit the amount of space that gets enough sunlight to grow vegetables. Far from the traditional rectangle, our garden's perimeter meanders and curves to take maximal advantage of the sun. Each year we see how much more we can cram in, and whether there are any other little pockets of possible growing space that we hadn't taken advantage of previously. Perhaps this is a little obsessive, but the joy of growing delicious food is so rewarding, we keep at it.

And, of course, one way to ensure that your food is local is to grow it yourself! We make no pretenses of supplying all our own needs from the garden--that just wouldn't be possible. But we grow things we like, and things that are expensive if you buy them (heirloom tomatoes, for example), and we freeze what we can for the winter. This year will mark our first full harvest season with a chest freezer, and I am looking forward to being able to put away more than I did last year.

So what will be going into the garden this year? Well, off the top of my head...13 kinds of tomatoes (one plant each), two kinds of sweet peppers, four kinds of carrots, four kinds of eggplant, lettuce, kale, chard, spinach, bok choy, mizuma, arugula, some other specialty greens, fennel, winter squash, summer squash, parsley, basil, cilantro, hot peppers, parsnips, rutagaba (my husband insists!), celeriac, three kinds of cucumbers, snow peas, snap peas, pole beans, and undoubtedly several other things that I can't think of right now. I can't wait! When will the snow melt?

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Spicy Indian Potatoes and Chickpeas with Spinach

I scored some local spinach at the coop yesterday--yum! I combined it with some of the potatoes I picked up at Winter Fare in this delicious dish. I always serve this as a main dish, but it could work as a side dish, too.

4 medium potatoes, cubed
1-2 Tbsp olive oil
1-2 Tbsp ground cumin
1- 1 ½ Tbsp ground coriander
2 tsp garam masala (optional)
½ tsp turmeric
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 ½ tsp salt
¼ - ½ tsp cayenne pepper
8 cloves garlic, minced
1-2 Tbsp grated fresh ginger
1 medium onion, finely chopped
2 cups cooked chickpeas
1/2 lb spinach, washed and stemmed
2 Tbsp lemon juice

Boil the potatoes in a pot of salted water they are almost cooked through, about 10 minutes. Drain and leave to cool.

Heat the olive oil in a very large skillet or a soup pot. Add the cumin, coriander, garam masala (if using), turmeric, black pepper, salt, and cayenne and stir, then quickly add the garlic, ginger, and onion. Sauté until the garlic and onions are tender, about 4-5 minutes.

Add the chickpeas to the pan. Mix together well, until chickpeas are thoroughly coated. Add the spinach and continue sautéing until the spinach wilts, about 2-3 minutes. Add the potatoes and stir to coat. Be careful not to turn them into mush. Drizzle the lemon juice over the mixture and stir.

Serve hot.

Serves 4-5.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Get to Clarkdale While You Can

The Clarkdale farm stand will be closing for the season as of March 1. Get over there while you can to grab the last of the apples and cider. They are open Fri-Sun.

Slow Cooker Southwestern Beans

This is a staple in our house for nights when I won't have time to cook. I am still feeling very pleased with myself for freezing so many red peppers last fall--the supply is going strong and I am enjoying one of my favorite vegetables right through the winter. I usually serve these beans over rice, but you could also do them more like a soup. I've listed the vegetables I like to add, but it's entirely flexible: you can use more, less others, or none at all.

3 cups dried black beans, soaked overnight, rinsed and drained
1 large onion, chopped
2 bell peppers (any color), diced
Tomatoes, chopped (optional: as many or few as you like; frozen or canned both fine)
1 cup corn kernels (frozen is fine)
3/4 cup salsa
Salt and pepper to taste
Shredded cheddar for topping
Hot sauce for topping (optional)

Combine all ingredients except water and salt and pepper in the slow cooker. Add water until the beans are fully but not generously covered. Add more water if you want the end result to be more like a soup or you won't be able to check on the beans while they cook.

Cook on high for 6 hours or low for 8-9 hours. Add salt and pepper before serving. Top with shredded cheddar and hot sauce at the table.

Serves 6-8.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Pizza with Kale, Rosemary, and Feta

I had some kale remaining from what I bought at Winter Fare. Here I combined it with a few other reliable winter ingredients (onions, garlic, and cheese), plus some rosemary from my potted plant. Dried rosemary isn't generally worth the bother, I think, and fresh stuff from the store can be so expensive (not to mention not in season locally right now!). But potted rosemary is easy to care for and gives you a great supply year round.

Olive oil
1 medium onion, sliced
6 cloves garlic, minced
4 cups chopped kale
2 tsp minced fresh rosemary
Salt and pepper to taste
1 14-inch pizza crust
3/4 cup tomato sauce of your choice
2-3 oz. crumbled feta
2-4 oz. shredded mozzarella

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.

Sautee the onion and garlic in olive oil until the onion turns translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the kale and rosemary and continue to saute until the kale is nicely wilted. Remove from heat.

Paint the pizza crust with a little olive oil, then spread with the tomato sauce. Top with the kale mixture. Sprinkle feta over this, then top with the mozzarella.

Bake for 15-18 minutes, until the crust is golden brown.

Serves 3-4.

Friday, February 13, 2009

No-Knead Bread

This recipe is adapted from Jim Lahey via Mark Bittman at the New York Times, with a few minor changes of my own. Some folks may have seen it floating around the Internet already. With some local wheat on hand to go into it, I thought I'd share. I make this pretty regularly through the winter, when I can't get bread from El Jardin bakery at the farmers market. If you're looking for something to put your caramelized onions and goat cheese on, this is great. You can play with the ratio of flours--the amounts listed below are what I like, but it's pretty flexible.

The wheat I bought from Crabapple Farm was not ground, but I have a flour mill. I have found that freshly ground grains add wonderful flavor to breads and other baked goods.

To bake this bread, you will need a good sized covered casserole pot, preferably ceramic or cast iron (I use a cast iron dutch oven). Glass is okay but not as good. Be sure the pot and lid are oven proof at high temperatures.

Overnight version
3 cups all-purpose flour or bread flour
1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour OR 1 cup whole wheat flour + 1/2 cup millet flour (my favorite)
1/4 tsp yeast
2-3 tsp salt
2 1/4 cups lukewarm water

Combine all ingredients in a large bowl. The dough will be very wet. Cover with plastic wrap and let sit at room temperature for 15-18 hours (this is flexible: can be less, especially if the room is warm, or can be as much as 24 hours if you forget about it accidentally).

Liberally flour a work surface. Scrape the dough out of the bowl. Using well-floured hands and maybe a dough scraper, form the dough into a ball. You will need to keep sprinkling it with flour as you do this, until it is not sticky to the touch.

Sprinkle cornmeal onto a dish towel (not a fuzzy one!). Place the dough on the cornmeal and sprinkle more cornmeal over it. Cover with another towel and let rise for 2 hours.

After 1 1/2 hours or so, put your pot and lid in the oven and preheat to 450 degrees. When the oven is hot and the bread is done rising, take the pot out of the oven and put the dough into it. Bake covered for 30 minutes, then remove the lid and bake for another 15-20 minutes. Cook on rack.

Quicker version
This is not quite as good as the overnight version, but it's close. What I like about the overnight version is that it develops a faint sourdough flavor from sitting out so long rising.

Use 1 Tbsp yeast intead of 1/4 tsp. After combining all ingredients in the bowl, cover and let rise for about 4 hours. Follow the same procedure as above with the flour and cornmeal for the second rising, but rise only one more hour. Follow procedure above for preheating and baking.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Caramelized Onions

The main piece on the food page in today's Recorder was about caramelized onions--yum! Onions are one food that is available from local growers pretty much year-round here in the Pioneer Valley. When you caramelize them, you can make them into a star of the culinary show rather than just a background flavor or filler.

The food page piece was about making them in a big batch, but you can just as easily (more easily! and faster!) do small amounts at a time. Just slice up an onion (or a few) and saute in a little olive oil over very low heat until they become very soft and dark brown. Be sure to stir periodically to keep them from sticking and burning.

What next? Oh, the possibilities! One of my favorites is to combine with goat cheese (which we also have several excellent local sources of!). You can just put these together on crackers or bread, or they make an excellent pizza topping. Caramelized onions also go well with potatoes (roasted, perhaps) or broiled or grilled meat. Try adding them to homemade tomato sauce, or combine with sauteed greens.

Another option I like is to add a little balsamic vinegar to the pan as I cook the onions, adding another dimension of flavor. This combination goes especially well with greens.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Pasta with Arugula and Bacon

Among the items I picked up at Winter Fare this weekend was a well-filled bag of arugula from Simple Gifts Farm. I used the whole thing in this pasta dish last night, which was delicious. Arugula is frequently paired with pancetta in Italian cuisine, but bacon makes a reasonable substitute--especially when it is the exceptionally good bacon produced by Bostrom's Farm.

1/2 bacon (strips)
1 lb dry cut pasta (such as gemelli)
2 medium onions, sliced lengthwise
7-8 clove garlic, minced
4-6 ounces arugula
Olive oil
1/2 - 3/4 cup grated Parmesan
Salt and pepper

Heat a pot of water for the pasta. You can prepare the rest of the dish while the water heats and the pasta cooks. When the pasta is done, drain and return it to the pot or a large serving bowl.

Fry the bacon in a large skillet (it can be chewy or crisp, your choice). Drain it on paper towels and pour most of the fat out of the pan. Leave about 2 tsp to saute the onion and garlic.

Saute the onion and garlic until tender, about 5-6 minutes. Add the arugula and cook until wilted, just a few minutes. Remove from heat and toss with the pasta. Stir in the Parmesan and add salt and pepper to taste.

Serves 4-6.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Broiled Lamb Chops with Pesto

Last night for dinner I pulled some lamb shoulder chops out of the freezer that I bought at the end of the farmers market this fall from Crabapple Farm.
Cooked under the broiler (or on the grill at another time of year) they make for a fast but fantastic meal. I took some pesto out of the freezer to go with them--a great combination with lamb. I served these with mashed winter squash and rice pilaf.

4 lamb shoulder chops (thawed if frozen)
1/2 cup pesto (thawed if frozen)

Spread the pesto over the chops, liberally covering both sides. If you have the time, let them sit for 30-60 minutes to absorb some of the pesto flavor.

Preheat the broiler. Place the chops under it and broil for 3-4 minutes per side, until cooked medium rare (or more if you like).

Serves about 4.

Winter Fare - WOW!

I just got back from Winter Fare, and all I can say is, if you happen to be reading this before it closes at 2pm on Saturday and you have not yet been over there, drop whatever you are doing and go right now!

I came home with three kinds of potatoes, sweet potatoes, arugula, kale, salad greens, onions, squash, carrots, eggs, wheat, and maple syrup. And the only reason I stopped there was that I was on foot with Nate in the stroller and ran out of room to carry it all (should have brought the car!). There was an absolutely incredible array of fresh produce, all grown by local farmers. Red Fire Farm had the biggest set-up, with box after box of all different kinds of greens, roots, squash, and more. It was the first one I saw when I walked in and it just about blew my mind--especially the greens. There was also meat from three or four different vendors, honey and maple products, herbs, apples, seed, jam and pickles, baked goods...amazing.

AND the place was packed, right from the moment it opened at 10:00 and getting busier as the morning went on. Clearly there is a real hunger for local produce right on through the winter. I keep hoping that one of these years Greenfield will have a real winter farmers market, open bi-weekly or monthly.

Now I am going to sit back and happily ponder what to cook this week with this wonderful bounty! Maybe I'll start by grinding some of that wheat and making bread.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Pizza with Fennel, Peppers, and Feta

Thank goodness (again) for the freezer. I froze a few small packages of fennel in the fall and am very much enjoying them now--along with the much larger supply of bell peppers I put in there. Red peppers can be cut in half, seeded, and frozen as is. They are easy to chop while still frozen. For fennel it is best to dice it first. For this pizza, you can put the frozen veggies on it directly without thawing.

1 14-inch pizza crust
1/2 cup tomato sauce
1/2 - 3/4 cup diced red pepper (frozen)
1/2 cup diced fennel (frozen)
1/2 cup crumbled feta
3-4 oz. shredded mozzarella

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Paint the pizza crust with a little olive oil to prevent sogginess.

Spread the tomato sauce over the crust, then top with the pepper, fennel, and feta. Spread the mozzarella over everything. Bake for 15-20 minutes, until crust is golden brown and cheese begins to brown.

Serves 3-4.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Winter Fare this Weekend!

Don't miss Winter Fare this Saturday from 10-2 at Greenfield High School!

This is the February answer to the Harvest Supper held each August. In addition to a farmers market with storage crops, greens, maple products, honey, pickles, bread, jam, and more, there will be workshops, a Soup Cafe put on by local restaurants using local foods, and a barter fair where you can bring any excess you might have in the way of storage crops, dried goods, or canned goods and trade them for something you don't have.

It promises to be a great community event as well as a wonderful way to get your hands on some more local food in the dead of winter. I was pleased to see that it will be at the high school this year--last year's venue, the 2nd Congregational Church, was extremely crowded. My son (then five months old) started to freak out almost as soon as we got inside so I had to leave almost immediately, which was decidedly disappointing.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Celeriac-Potato Pancakes

This weekend, all I could find for local produce at Green Fields Market was celeriac and turnips. And I don't much like turnips. So I bought some more celeriac. Here's what I did with it last night.

1 large celeriac, peeled and cut into chunks
3 large potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks
2 medium onions, peeled and quartered
2 tsp salt
8-10 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup all purpose flour
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp garam masala (optional)
Pepper to taste
3 eggs, beaten
4 cubes cilantro from the freezer, thawed (optional)
Plain yogurt for topping
Chutney(s) of your choice for topping

Shred the celeriac, potatoes, and onions (easiest with the grating attachment of a food processor). Place in a colander in the sink. Sprinkle with salt, mix, and let sit for about 15 minutes. Press out excess moisture and transfer to a large bowl.

Stir the garlic, flour, cumin, garam masala (if using), and pepper into the shredded vegetables until well combined. Add the eggs and cilantro and stir to coat.

Heat a large skillet (or two) and add some canola oil. Scoop the celeriac mix into the pans with a large spoon and form pancakes. Press them together so they will hold. Pancakes should be about 1/4-1/2 inch thick. Fry until crispy on one side, then flip and fry until crispy on the other side and cooked through in the middle.

Serve hot, topped at the table with plain yogurt and/or chutneys of your choice.

Serves 4-6.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Peach Pie with Streusel Topping

Last September I sliced and froze nearly 16 quarts of peaches from Clarkdale. This weekend I pulled out a package and made this pie--and boy was it good! Be sure to drain the thawed peaches well or the pie will be very soupy.

1 9-inch pastry shell
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
3 Tbsp white flour
1 tsp cinnamon (1/2 tsp + 1/2 tsp)
1/4 tsp nutmeg (1/8 tsp + 1/8 tsp)
4-5 Tbsp cold butter, in small pieces
1/3 cup chopped walnuts
1/2 cup white sugar
1 Tbsp corn starch
2 quarts frozen peaches, thawed and well drained

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.

Make the streusel topping: In a food processor, combine the brown sugar, flour, 1/2 tsp cinnamon and 1/8 tsp nutmeg. Pulse briefly. Add the butter and pulse until the butter is in very small pieces. Add the walnuts and pulse a couple times. They should be in small pieces but not totally ground. Set aside.

In a small bowl, combine the white sugar, corn starch, 1/2 tsp cinnamon and 1/8 tsp nutmeg.

Place the peaches in a medium bowl and add the sugar and cornstarch combination. Stir to coat.

Places the peaches in the pie shell. Spread the streusel topping over the peaches.

Bake the pie for 10 minutes, then reduce the oven temperature to 350 degrees and bake for another 40-50 minutes until crust is nicely golden brown.

Dried Tomato Quiche with Cheddar and Thyme

It seems I've been on a bit of a quiche kick lately. Hope I'm not boring anyone. I think it's partly because local eggs, milk, and cheese are available all winter long and I have a lovely stash of dried tomatoes in the pantry from last summer's garden. So here's another variation on the theme. A note about quiche: if you're using a deep dish pan, increase the eggs to 4 and the milk to a full cup.

1 9-inch pastry shell
1 medium onion, chopped
1/2 cup dried tomatoes
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1 cup shredded sharp cheddar
3 eggs
3/4 cup whole milk
Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 375. Prick the pie crust in several places with a fork, then pre-bake for about 15 minutes (weight it down with pie weights if homemade).

Rehydrate the tomatoes by soaking in boiling water for several minutes. Drain and chop.

Saute the onions in olive oil until translucent. Add the tomatoes and thyme and saute another minute or so. Place onions, tomatoes, and cheese in the bottom of the pie shell.

In a small bowl, beat the eggs and milk together. Add salt and pepper. Pour into the pie shell. Bake quiche for about 35 minutes, until cooked through.

Serves 3-4.